2016 : Vernors Celebrating 150th Anniversary

June 5, 2024 all-day

Vernor’s Ginger Ale, Detroit’s Drink, Advertisement

Vernors — which was originally Vernor’s, before the apostrophe was dropped decades ago — is among the oldest continuously made soft drinks in America. This week, it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

The story goes that in 1862 Detroit pharmacist James Vernor concocted a new drink.

It was a mix of medical tonic, vanilla and spices, with a touch of ginger to soothe a sour stomach. He was going off to fight the Civil War, so he stored it in an oak cask. Four years later, he returned from battle, tapped the keg and Vernors was born.

By some accounts, he tasted his drink and declared it to be “Deliciously different!” which became the drink’s motto.

Stone said it’s a fantastic story, but it’s also probably an apocryphal one.

What was true, according to Joel Stone, 60, the senior curator of the Detroit Historical Society, was that Vernor studied pharmacy and was issued the first pharmacy licence in the state. He tinkered with flavors to duplicate a ginger ale that was imported from Europe, and after he was discharged from the 4th Michigan Cavalry, he began selling it from a Woodward Avenue drugstore soda fountain.

As demand grew, Vernor sold syrup to soda fountains. Later, he got out of the drugstore business to focus on making just the pop. He brought in his namesake son to run the business and went to great lengths to keep the recipe a carefully-guarded secret.

“In the world of ginger ale,” Stone said, “Vernors stands completely apart because of its bold flavor.”

For the full article, see Frank Witsil, “How Vernors, Michigan’s ginger ale, endured 150 years“, Detroit Free Press,  June 5, 2016

For another see Leyland DeVito, “A Ginger Tale : Its factories are long gone, but 150-year-old Vernors is still ‘Detroit’s drink‘”, Hour Detroit, May 31, 2016.


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